thewilltoholdon

As I breathe and think and dream


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More Life ..

Recently I have been bogged down with office work, house work, looking-after-toddler work and all other sorts of work. In fact days are so busy, that one day merges into the other without me noticing. At times I have no sense of time passing except when I look at the calendar and actually my tired brain has enough time to register the day or the month. Last week I had a birthday and I am older now. And that has set me thinking – I have lesser time on this planet then before. I have less time to enjoy things and achieve things before I drop dead. My circumstances have not changed. I still have a full time demanding job, a mortgage to pay off, a toddler with her endless questions, a house which is a dirt-and-unwashed-clothes magnet and a garden threatening to overgrow and choke out the sunlight. Don’t get me wrong – I love my job, my child, my crazy and chaotic house and garden. However I have decided I need to get more out of life… by burning the midnight oil, cutting a few corners, somehow! There will be more fun, more hobbies, more time with friends, more everything … starting NOW.
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So this is my list of personal things that I will be aiming to do more of (this is not a comprehensive list and will get added to as I find more things that I want more of) –
1) More fitness – I attended a half marathon to cheer a friend 5 years ago. Since that time I have been nurturing the dream of participating in a run myself. However the time never seemed right. But I am happy to say that today I have taken a plunge and enrolled myself in a 14 km run. The prospect is scary for me , because I have never been a runner and many people asked me to cut my teeth on a 5 km run instead. But what the hell … I have decided that I will go for the 14 km one and challenge myself. Watch this space to find out how my training goes.
2) More art – Art (and craft) is what keeps me going spiritually. However in these crazy busy times when I have been drowning in work, art has taken a backseat. So now I have decided to give more time to art. I will make a restart work on the two giant paintings that I have been working on for the last 5 months and done maybe 10% of.
3) More movies/tv shows – This might sound stupid. On self improvement lists, people generally talk of cutting out television. But I am not on a self improvement trip, only an enjoyment one and I really do want to catch up on all those shows and movies that I have been missing. With a toddler, going to the theaters is a difficult of course. So I have decided that after aforementioned toddler goes to sleep, I and my husband will finally get around to seeing all the seasons of ‘Game of Thrones’ and the other stacked up DVDs that are brought regularly but seldom watched.
4) More blogging – Yes! I have this whole fat folder of draft blogs that I have started at some point when inspiration struck me but then abandoned due to lack of time. Now it is almost impossible to complete those as I have long forgotten what I had been thinking of in most cases. However I do swear that from now on, I will get back to blogging regularly. Maybe I will do shorter blogs. Or half baked blogs or ones riddled with grammatical errors! Still there will be blogs.

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Dieting With The Significant Other

You know how everyone says that exercising or dieting with a friend or partner is a lot more effective than doing it solo. You have someone to share notes with, someone to celebrate your wins with and someone to support you during the lows. You are more motivated to stick to your exercise routine or diet plan because you are accountable to someone else. If you are alone, you might try and get out of a run because it is too cloudy/sunny/windy/dark. However knowing that there is someone else who can surely spot the gaping holes in your flimsy story, you are more inclined to stay on the straight and narrow.
The above theory does not seem to apply to me. Recently my husband decided to join me on the 5:2 diet. I have been on this diet for the last three months now and have found it to be pretty good. It has not been a dramatic weight loss journey for me. Definitely I will not make it to the internet headlines like “Learn how his mother of one used a WEIRD tip to lose 15 kilos in 15 days … while having a chocolate bar each day!” . However I am happy to report that over the last three months I have been losing weight steadily, albeit slowly, and have managed to keep it off. I am just a few pounds shy of my target weight now. Dramatic though it might not be, my story has definitely inspired one individual. My husband.
When he first announced he wanted to join me in 5:2 dieting, of course, I made the appropriate encouraging noises. After all I have been trying to get him to eat healthier, exercise more and live better for a while now. So I was happy that he had taken a step in the right direction.
However having gone through a couple of diet days with him, I find that having him along on the diet is not as good or as encouraging as I would have thought. Trouble started even before D day. Right before commencing on the diet, he was all chuffed and went on continuously about how he planned on being a 100% committed to his diet plan. He peppered me with questions – ‘ Can I have a coffee on a diet day?’ “How many calories are there in spoonful of sugar?” “I can have unlimited vegetables, right?” “Are oranges low in calories?”. Next he drove me crazy by going through his planned dietary intake schedule for the next day about a million times – “salad for lunch, konjac rice with stir fry vegetables and chicken for dinner and an apple as a snack.”, “salad for lunch, konjac rice with stir fry vegetables and chicken for dinner and an apple as a snack.”, “salad for lunch,…”. It started sounding almost like a semi- religious chant.
On the actual day, it was worse. He kept calling me at work almost every hour with updates.
“I thought I would have had to have that apple by now. But no, I resisted all temptation.”
“It’s almost mid-day I am still holding good. This is easier than I thought!”
“That salad for lunch tasted vile. You know I hate rocket. Couldn’t you have chosen another one?”
“I am feeling really hungry now. Is it okay if I have a Diet Coke to help tide me over?”
” What’s for dinner today? Can we have a really early one? ”
“Why do diet days have to be alcohol free? I could really do with a stiff one right now!”
Now I appreciate the fact that in the beginning, diet days are unsettling. And it is but natural that my husband turns to me, the diet guru in his eyes. I know I am being uncharitable by becoming this irritated with him. However diet days have become a kind of meditation for me. Those are days when I stay below the radar. Spend time looking inwards and interacting as little with the world as possible. Plow through huge amounts of pending work without food distractions. Drink copious amount of green tea. Have a low key dinner. Head to bed early. Make it through the day as quickly as possible.
With my husband on board, there seems to be too much noise and too much emphasis on the fact that “WE ARE DIETING!”. All through the day I am reminded of how hard dieting actually is and that makes me feel those hunger pangs more keenly. These are precisely the last things I want to be thinking of. I want a diet day to be like a normal day. Just a day – any day. Only without much food. And no song and dance about it either.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my husband dearly. I hope he benefits a lot from this diet and that it works even better for him than it did for me. But I also sincerely hope that he settles down in this as soon as possible.


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My Life … In Books

I have always been a bookworm. I started devouring books from a very early age. Back then in India, reading books for pleasure, especially English books, was not common. However my family was an exception, as both my father and elder sister were big readers. The walls of our house were lined with books, something my mother did not really appreciate as she felt that the books cluttered up our place too much. And that was true to some extent, for in my house there were books on every available surface, on the bed stands, in the crockery cabinet, under the staircase, in the attic. However despite her protests, the books kept increasing.
Surrounded by so many books, I had a great time growing up. I did end up reading a lot of age inappropriate stuff. You can also say that probably I should have made more friends and spent more time outdoors. More than once, I was caught by my mom reading a novel when I should be revising for exams. However it was all tremendous fun and at least I was never ever bored.
English books were quite expensive in India and we belonged to the ordinary middle class with quite little disposable income. Though my sister and I saved up whatever little money was given to us, we never had enough to buy all the books we wanted. My sister was even known to walk miles to save her bus money in order to buy a desired book. Finally she found her book Mecca in New York where she moved to after her marriage. Her initial letters and emails to me used to be full of stories of how big the New York Central library was and how should she could take out thirty books at a time. Feeling envious, I would close my eyes and try to imagine such a place. But each time I failed. There were hardly any English libraries in India then. The few libraries that existed were extremely ill-stocked, despite having ludicrously high membership rates and they would only allow a person to check out a couple of books at a time. My sister used to send me books whenever she could. In order to avoid large postal packages being stolen by the Indian postmen (something that is very common in India), my sister would do something weird. She would tear up a paperback into maybe 4 or 5 sections and post each section in a normal letter sized envelope. Once I would receive the whole book, I would put all the sections together and send it for binding. Needless to say, some of those letters went missing (another very common thing in India) and I ended up with a number of books missing important chapters in the middle or the end!
Once I started working, things were much better on the money front. Each month I set aside a sizeable part of my salary for buying books. Also around that time, English books became more easily available in India. Large multi storied bookstores opened up and while we would not get all the books being released internationally, the popular ones would make an appearance. I truly enjoyed the time spent browsing through the bookstores on the weekends. However my job entailed quite a bit of travelling and that slowly curtailed my book buying. It is difficult to cart books around when you divide your time between different cities. Books become dead weight and eat up all your weight allowance on flights. When I did settle down for a little while with my first husband, he was not a book lover. He hated bookshelves or any sort of books on display. According to him, books had to stay hidden from sight. So I used a part of a walk-in closet to house my books. When we separated, I lost those books, for he kept the house and everything in it (save the suitcase of clothes I took away). I can imagine the glee with which he must have gotten rid of my books shortly after.
Post my first marriage, I started living in the UK where I came across a little something called the Kindle. Previously I had always held out against eBook readers with a reasoning that I liked to physically touch my books, flip the pages, breathe in the unique book-sy smell. However, one birthday I got a Kindle as a gift and the sheer convenience of the slim device blew me away. Now I no longer need to cart heavy books around on my commute. I did not have to wait for the book shop to open for I could shop 24X7 at the online store. eBooks were a lot cheaper than the print versions. So it was a win-win all around. Just one small disadvantage though and this could just have been me. I have always been one of those people who love to re-read books. I have read some favorite books thirty or more times. With the eBook reader, however, the pleasure of reading books seems somewhat diminished. Is it because the next book is just a few clicks away? I do not know.
Now I am settled in Australia and have been furniture shopping for my new house with my second husband. We have recently bought three enormously large book cases and now I need books to fill them up. Thanks to all the moving around and the extensive use of the Kindle for the last four years, I have just around half a dozen actual books with me here in Australia. So all the empty space on the shelves is just begging me to go book shopping. And yes, I belong to that group of people who believe books should be main component in bookshelves, rather than knick-knacks. I can feel the excitement building up in me at the thought of buying actual physical hold-me-close books after so long! Think of all the fun to be had in browsing, buying, reading and re-reading those gems! Besides, if I need another important reason to start a book buying spree (which I don’t), there is the fact that I need to provide as much encouragement by example to my 20 month old as possible so that she starts taking an active interest in books. I am picturing cozy winter evenings for us, snuggling on the couch with a book and hot chocolate. And frankly there is nothing better than living in a house full of well-loved books, is there?


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To Long Lost Friendship

This morning I had a weird urge to look up those people on Facebook who had once been my friends when I was still with my ex. I have not been in touch with these people for the last five years if not more. Once upon a time they used to mean so much. There was a time when their name cropped up so frequently in my conversations. I knew who was having a fling with whom, who was expecting her first child, how one was trying to resuscitate a floundering business, how someone else had switched jobs, how someone was a compulsive liar. I met these people frequently – at parties, on Sunday brunches, in nightclubs, on vacations. There were some I liked a lot, some a little less and others whom I was not too fond of at all. However they all meant something. They used to be a part of my life, for good or for worse.
Now they are all gone. They vanished when my ex and I rode off into the horizon … in opposite directions. I have no idea whether that person did manage to turn his business around or whether the then pregnant lady had a boy or a girl. Busy as I am in my new life, majority of the time I barely spare those people a thought. But sometimes in a rare spare moment, their thought returns to irk me. I miss the presence of those friends/acquaintances of old times.
And this is not just about friends lost due to the crumbling of a marriage. I think of all those friends who had once been an integral part of my life and who now mean nothing. They are either lost to me completely or are reduced to an infrequent status update on Facebook, most times ignored. Where is X, the girl who was my best friend in junior school? She used to wear her brown hair in plaits and had a horde of younger brothers and sisters. We used to be so close that on days, when she was absent from school, I felt lost. Where is Y whom I used to share a room with ten years ago when I started my work life? I daresay I can find out where she lives these days from Facebook or some other social site. But here we are talking about the girl I used to chat with till 4 am many nights, sharing laughter, tears and deep secrets about boys and life. It feels weird that the girl who once used to know me better than myself, is now a stranger. Where is Z, the guy I once had a secret crush on fifteen years ago? I remember When I had discovered he had a girlfriend, I had been so heartbroken that I cried myself to sleep for a week.
They say we carry with us all those friends who matter. Do we? I have friends now. Precious though they are to me, they have never been able to replace all the different flavors of friends I have lost over the years. Maybe I should have made more of an effort to keep in touch. Maybe this is what life is and we are all ships in the night, passing through. Maybe one day I will once again rekindle that lost friendship with someone from the past. But for now, I raise a toast to all those long-lost friends and acquaintances. Here’s to you, guys! I miss you all.


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The Day I Almost Gave Up

Dieting isn’t easy. According to statistics, 95% of diets fail. And I almost ended up contributing to that number yesterday. I am in Week 4 of my 5:2 diet and I thought I had a handle on things by now. I was getting comfortable with the idea of feeling hungry, falling into the whole rhythm of ‘feasting’ and ‘fasting’ and telling myself that it wasn’t all that hard. Then along came a day like yesterday.
I knew when I got up in the morning yesterday that it was a fast day. However I found my usual optimism missing and something felt off. It was the middle of a hard week. I had been battling with some difficult work in office. On the personal front, things were pretty crappy as well. My husband was away on a 10 day overseas trip. This is the first time we have been separated since our marriage two and half years ago. My toddler was down with a cold and had been miserable and restless throughout the previous night. Add to that the fact that my husband is also my chauffer who ferries me part way to work and his absence made my commute pretty rough the whole week.
I thought of postponing the fast to the next day. But fasting on a Friday is not much fun. So I soldiered on. By midday, I was feeling really out of sorts. I felt uncomfortable and could feel a headache start to form. Even my usual tactics of shopping during the lunch hour failed to give much joy. My eyes were continually drawn to all the shops selling pies, cheesecakes and ice cream. I was incredibly tempted to step inside a particularly heavenly smelling bakery and had to drag myself away from there. Back in the office, I heated up some soup for myself. That was another mistake. Based on what I had found out about myself in the past few weeks, the fasting rhythm that best suits me is when I eat nothing at all till dinner, except maybe some iced teas or lemon water. Eating mini portions of food in the day somehow makes me all the more hungry. And sure enough, post soup I started craving food even more.
By the time I reached home, I was exhausted and had convinced myself that I would not be able to continue with the fast that day. Maybe I would give it a try again the next day or else just make do with single fast day in this week. Not the end of the world, right? “No, tomorrow is another day and today you can eat!” said my food deprived body. However I did feel guilt raising its head as well. I had been so good all this while and it felt wrong to throw it all away. Also my conscience reminded me that this is how my previous attempt at 5:2 had ended last year. First there was one missed day , then two and then before I knew it, I had given up on the whole thing.
It was a struggle to prepare my daughter’s dinner and while helping her eat, I came up with the idea that would in a way let me have my cake and eat it too! If I could just hold on my fast till 9pm, then from 9pm the previous day when I had last eaten to 9pm that day it would be 24 hours and that should count for a full day of fast. So technically I should be able to eat after 9pm and still salvage my fast day. That thought cheered me up a bit. No more guilt about having abandoned my fast midway. While having my dinner of grilled fish and lentil and vegetable soup, I told myself that this was Dinner Part I and Part II would follow after 9pm. With that thought, I went to put my daughter to sleep. It turned into a battle of wills for she was in no mood for sleep and would rather ask a million times about her dad and when he would be back home. Reassurances and maybe a hundred lullabies later, she finally dropped off. By then I was so tired, I just crawled into bed myself, the thought of preparing Dinner Part II too exhausting to contemplate.
And surprisingly I slept well. When I got up in the morning beating my alarm clock by ten minutes, my first thought was that I had gotten through the fast day. Hurrah! And further good news, when I went to weight myself this morning, I had lost almost a kilo since the last weigh-in a week ago. Boy, am I glad now that I did not give up last night! You see, it pays to hang on. I am now looking forward to my next fast day. After all I still have a long way to go. But as for now, where was that cheesecake shop again? Today is a feast day, guys!


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How to Battle the 5:2 Diet Hunger My Way

As I have mentioned in earlier blogs, I am doing the 5:2 diet. This is my second attempt. The first time I attempted it, I fell off the wagon after about 2 weeks as I found that having low energy towards the end of the day is disastrous when you have a toddler who expects you to run, jump and play with her. However due to reasons I won’t go into here (maybe in another blog), I am giving it another try.
Now fasting is not pretty. Having a gnawing feeling in your stomach can suck the joy out of your day. Yes, I know it is just 2 days out of 7. Still spending 28.6% of your life hungry is brutal. But now I think I have discovered an antidote to it all. Yes, Sir! Here I have made a revolutionary discovery that is going to change the way the world diets. Do you want to know what it is? Do you?
Shopping! This panacea to many ills works wonderfully well in the context of 5:2 diets. Today I went shopping in my lunch hour. Somehow going out for lunch with colleagues on a fasting day is not much fun. The sight of their yummy Yaki Udons, sausage rolls and gourmet baguettes is too much for me. And having a solitary lunch of a few cabbage leaves does not take much time. So today before tackling my paltry lunch, I slipped out of office and went to the large retail store nearby (one of the largest in the city). There I spent a blissful lunch hour browsing and trying on clothes. Near the end of my break, I emerged happy and $200 poorer. That flush from my retail therapy session was not just momentary – it has stayed well into the evening. I did not even feel the need to have that lunch and even in the evening, I was clear headed, focused and barely feeling the hunger pangs. Compare this to earlier fast days, when the evening would find me listless, slightly dizzy and completely energy depleted. I tell you, this is a breakthrough.
So now I know how to get through the tedious fast days. Of course, this means that by the time I have lost my targeted amount of weight, I will be a pauper. But a slim pauper, people!
P.S.- Online shopping , I find, does not work as well as physical shopping. Probably it does not engage the senses as much!


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Happy Weight Vs Unhappy Weight

I bought and read my first ever diet book yesterday. Many times in that book, the author refers to something that she calls ‘happy weight’. Sure I understand what she means – a weight that one can happily live with. However looking back on my life, there is a little bit of confusion. Some years back, I was at my slimmest (my personal adulthood best of 54kg). I felt good about stepping onto the scales and I could wear whatever I wanted to. But mentally I was at a really unhappy stage in my life then. Now I weigh 63kg. Weight wise I am pretty unhappy (hence the diet book!). I have love handles and bulges and have had to relegate most of my old clothes to the back of the wardrobe. However in all other spheres of life and in stark contrast to my earlier state of mind, I am happy now. So which one was/is my ‘happy weight’ – phase 1 of ‘Weight happy – Life unhappy’ or phase 2 of ‘Life happy – Weight unhappy’ ?
I am not dumb. I will take phase 2 over phase 1 any day. But I am a woman, there is no pleasing me and so I am now aiming for the elusive ‘Life happy – Weight happy’ state (if it at all exists!). Geez! There is really no such thing as a content woman, is there?